Drivers And Their Employers Are Responsible for Problems with Truck Loads from Start to Finish
Semi tractor-trailer rigs are big, awkward, challenging-to-operate vehicles. Even when empty, a typical tractor and trailer together weigh about 35,000 pounds and are more than 70 feet long, about 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet tall. It’s easy to understand why it takes a considerable amount of training and experience for a truck driver to learn to safely drive one of these big rigs. Another significant challenge is the weight and distribution of a load being carried inside the trailer. That load can be up to about 45,000 pounds, and it’s sitting perched on top of a trailer that typically weighs less than a quarter of that amount, resulting in a tall vehicle with a high center of gravity that can be prone to tipping over when turning at high speed or experiencing lateral forces such as from high winds. And if part of that 20+ tons of load is unbalanced or suddenly shifts, it can quickly result in disastrous trucking accidents that can cause serious property damage, injuries, and even deaths. That’s why federal law holds truck drivers and their employers responsible for the proper distribution, balance, and securement of their cargo from start of trip to finish. When trucking accidents may have occurred due to improperly loaded cargo, a skilled personal injury attorney will know to review the details of the cargo’s loading and securement and compare these facts to the regulatory requirements to look for important discrepancies upon which a personal injury claim or lawsuit may hinge.
Federal Law Details Responsibility for Problems with Truck Loads
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) squarely places load safety upon truck drivers and, by extension, the commercial carriers who employ them. At Section 392.9 the FMCSR simply states that the commercial truck may not be driven until and unless its load is properly secured and distributed. Upon accepting a load, the driver becomes responsible for the cargo, both from the perspective of being a service provider responsible to the shipper for getting the cargo to its destination in good condition, and from a safety perspective of verifying that the cargo is properly distributed and secured so as not to present a danger during transit. One important exception is in the case of sealed cargo containers, where the driver’s ability to review the load’s condition may be limited — in these cases of “hidden hazards,” determining the relative liability of shipper versus carrier is a significant legal consideration.
Proper loading can have significant impacts upon vehicle driving performance, such as a loss of traction if too little cargo is loaded over a particular axle, or overloading issues if too much cargo is loaded over another axle. Stacking cargo in a tall arrangement can make a truck much more prone to tipping due to a raised center of gravity as compared to the same load being spread out evenly over the floor of the trailer. Obviously, cargo that is not properly secured is a very significant danger, as it can result in the loss of cargo from a flatbed trailer or other open load or the sudden shifting of cargo in either an open or closed trailer that can lead to tipping or loss of control of the truck.
Separate Regulatory Requirements by Cargo Type for Proper Securement
Obviously, cargoes come in all weights, shapes, sizes, and forms, and federal regulations recognize this by having specific cargo securement rules for several types of common loads and truck types, including:
- Vehicles carriers.
- Intermodal containers.
- Logs and lumber.
- Compressed, junked vehicles.
- Concrete piping.
These regulations can be very detailed and specific in their requirements, and a careful review of those details is important for determining whether a violation of the rules was the cause of a particular trucking accident. For example, FMCSR section 393.124 describes the methods and requirements for properly securing concrete pipes. These include:
- The types of trailers to which the rules apply.
- The bundling of the pipes into single, rigid groupings to limit movement.
- The workload limits of the trailer tiedowns as compared with the total load weight.
- The proper use of transverse (crosswise) and longitudinal (lengthwise) tiedowns.
- The size, material (timber), and placement of blocking to prevent cargo movement.
- The proper arrangement of pipes of differing diameters.
- The proper arrangement of bottom, upper, and top tiers of pipe relative to one another.
The detail and complexity of these rules makes it understandable why an experienced personal injury attorney will often retain one or more trucking experts as consultants and expert witnesses from the very beginning of the investigation of trucking accidents that may have resulted from loading problems.
View this video that displays in spectacular fashion the tendency of trucks with high centers of gravity to tip, especially if they’ve been improperly loaded:
Truck Accident Attorney in California
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a California truck accident attorney. Truck drivers and their employers are not only responsible for safely driving and maintaining their vehicles — they are also responsible for ensuring that their cargo loads do not end up causing serious accidents due to being misloaded or improperly secured. If an unsafe load has caused the vehicle carrying it to become involved in an accident, or if an improperly secured load has ended up as a dangerous obstacle loose on the roadway, the truck driver and commercial carrier will bear legal liability for damages resulting from their negligence. If you or a family member has suffered a serious injury due to negligence of a truck driver, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
You can also reach us through our online contact form.
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Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay
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